A novel chronicles the life of a young man searching for closure from an unfulfilling past.
Lonely at age 30, the narrator faces a moment of crisis when both of his parents die in quick succession. On her deathbed, his mother confesses something he already knew: As a young wife, she fell in love with a woman, but chose to stay with her family. When the narrator’s father dies unexpectedly in his sleep soon after, everyone treats the event like the ultimate confirmation of the couple’s love for each other. The narrator has no such illusions, and relates these incidents in a tone both wry and tender. But having received $10,000 in cash from his father as a parting gift, along with the command “Don’t spend it well,” he decides that it’s time to face his own demons. Interspersed with these family sketches are memories from 10 to 15 years ago, when the narrator’s family moved to London and he became best friends with an impulsive teenager named Daniel Wright. Another figure haunts these reflections: Gabrielle Desidéria, one of Daniel’s best friends, whom the narrator loved for five years before gathering the courage to ask her out. But as he continues to darkly hint, “Daniel brought her to me and then he took her away” just a few months after they became a couple. Now, a decade older and world-weary, the narrator arranges to reunite with a married Gabrielle in London. In Amouzegar’s (A Dark Sunny Afternoon, 2016, etc.) tale, the narrator’s work at a secret government agency is an odd and unnecessary subplot. And the novel’s tone seems more fitting for a protagonist of 60 rather than 30. Nevertheless, the primary plots sing with nostalgia and regret, beautifully capturing the narrator’s struggles with his own vulnerability. The author’s touch is light as his characters deny their feelings, to themselves and to one another, until the right circumstances finally allow them to speak. But even as it presents such scenes, the story challenges the idea that people are ever handed the perfect moments to create the lives they want.
A capable portrait of grief, longing, and second chances.